Soccer, Sexism, USSF’S Huge [Hope] Solo Mess and A LOT of WTF

I have read and read and re-read pretty much everything written about this Hope Solo mess.  I have also read a lot written about domestic violence in the NFL and in sports in general.

Generally all the talking has proven to me is that very, very few people either involved in the decision-making or writing about it have any clue what the fuck they are talking about.  There is precious little discussion about the cycles of abuse, the toll it takes on families or why it exists in the first place.

To be clear, I have never been in a physically abusive relationship and got out of a couple emotionally abusive relationships pretty much unscathed or with minimal damage.   I have had a few close calls with some class-A DBags and suffered some sexual harassment and a sexual assault by a then boyfriend that left serious emotional scars, but thankfully not physical ones.  I have never been hit buy a guy that I was seeing or any other one for that matter.  I have never been in a physically abusive relationship by the grace of God and A LOT of luck and friends stepping in the line of fire so to speak.    Luckily, in my case relationships that could very easily end up there, I got out before it did.

Now back to the topic at hand… the never ending mess that is Hope Solo’s non-professional life.  I keep hearing this combination: Hope, Ray Rice, the question of why is SHE still playing, the false equivalency of male and female domestic violence and the idea that she is somehow different by virtue of gender    There are only a few people who know what happened in Hope Solo’s family’s kitchen and ultimately that is a matter for a judge/jury and or her legal team to sort through and determine.  There was no smoking gun videotape to crystallize the world’s opinion.

There are charges to be adjusted, include getting into a violent altercation with him 17 year-old nephew including breaking a broom over his head and then punching her sister, the boy’s mother, in the face when the sister tried to break it.  If those charges are true, she should be sent to jail as befitting punishment for those crimes.   I don’t care that she is a Hope Solo, America’s Best Goalkeeper or whatever.. if she is a violent thug, she is a violent thug.  Simple… simple… simple…

There is the trick and real issue, nothing, not one damn thing, in domestic violence is simple or black and white.

She is being portrayed in some segments as the same as Ray Rice and given the charges you can very easily make that case.  She is accused of the same crime as he was, punching a female loved one in the face, but she also has additional charges of violence against a minor. Is she then worse than Rice?  Is she been given a pass because we sexistly, as a society, do not consider women to be equally capable of violence and therefore not held to the same standard when they commit acts of violence?

Few, if any people, are talking about the ultimate irony  of Hope’s life…  that less than two years ago… Hope was the Janay Rice.  Hope was engaged to former NFL player Jerramy Stevens when he was accused and arrested for physical assaulting her at a party.   She married him hours later and charges were dropped due to lack of evidence and her refusal to testify.  When I say She was the Janay Rice, I mean down to the emergency marriage to protect her man.  Now does her being a, “victim,” of domestic abuse make her more sympathetic than Ray Rice?

Before I get too involved in this… let me state this emphatically, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NOT OK.. IN ANY FORM, be it verbal, mental, emotional, physical, sexual or any combination there of..  it is also not cookie-cutter, or cookie-cutter easy to solve.  If you are wondering, no I have no answers to solve the problem.  I just think that different questions should be asked.

Hope has always been, “troubled,” and, “trouble,” depending on your perspective.  She has always been US Soccer’s bad girl: fighting with teammates, defaming the ’91ers, ignoring coaches, and then there is the family drama on the side.  She has been the victim and now the accused perpetrator of intimate violence.  It is typical of Hope’s image .,.. conflicted mess of good and bad, light and dark, right and wrong.

There are real questions that should be asked about Hope and her Captaining of the US Women’s National Team while these criminal charges hang over her.  It is fair to know that until convicted, she is innocent.  I firmly believe that for all persons. It is the cornerstone of our democracy.  She is entitled to that right as well.

What becomes the issue is how do we are the American soccer community deal with this mess most appropriately?  Hope missed national team friendly to attend the party where all this went down.  It potentially was the match that would have broken Briana Scurry’s shut-out record.  She did it later while both captaining the national team and still under indictment.

Today the WWC Qualifying Rooster was announced with Hope as presumptive Starting GK.

 

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After all Uncle Sunil said in a statement recently, “From the beginning, we considered the information available and have taken a deliberate and thoughtful approach regarding Hope Solo’s status with the National Team…Based on that information, U.S. Soccer stands by our decision to allow her to participate with the team as the legal process unfolds. If new information becomes available we will carefully consider it.”
Uncle Sunil is flat out wrong, so is USSF.  

If it were Tim Howard and not Hope Solo, we would not be having this discussion. He would be banned… and NO, I am NOT accusing Tim of any sort of thing. It was just a like for like analogy.

Look I believe in innocent until proven guilty in a Court of law after a fair trial, with every fiber of my being.  I do.  This is not a Court of law… this is the Court of public opinion, the Supreme Court of public perception.  This is teaching young children, both girls and boys that violence committed by women is not as serious or as dangerous as that committed by men.  It is.  It is that simple.  This is the core group of USWNT fans, young, impressionable kids.

What is this teaching boys who are the victims of domestic violence? By the way the estimate is 1 in 14 guys at some point in his life will be the victim of domestic violence, YES VICTIM. That number rises dramatically for homosexual boys and men to 40%. [Per the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence]

What is it teaching girls who commit those acts?  What about girls who are lesbian and subjected to domestic abuse in their relationships?  
Is is not as serious, as dangerous, as important because the abuser was another female?

The players of the USWNT have been shamefully quite on this subject… shamefully quite.  I give them only the benefit of the doubt in that, I assume they were strongly encouraged/ordered to keep their mouths shut.

Until today when back-up goalkeeper Jillian Loyden retired from international soccer, not one team member spoke out.  Loyden retired and then in the proverbial same breath, called out USSF and its basically unconscionable decision to ignore the Solo situation.   She has a very special reason to be so insistent that USSF gets it collective shit together.  She more than most know that what domestic violence can do… Jillian buried her sister Britton who was (allegedly) murdered by Britton’s fiancé who is still awaiting his murder trial (yes I believe he is innocent as he has not been found guilty).  Jillian wrote an impassioned op-ed piece calling for Hope to be banned..  She is correct, Hope should be banned.  [READ IT NOW]  For more info, you can go to Jillian’s Foundation’s website.

I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of domestic violence, or how it affects people individually.  I know that Hope has been involved publicly as both a victim and a perpetrator. I do not know if she is guilty; that is for a Court, a judge and jury to determine… this is about representing the United States of America in international soccer, the historical beacon of the Women’s game.  Hope is not the player to do that at this point.

Uncle Sunil Works Ex Co Magic… Hooks America Up… Gets Copa American on FIFA calender

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Look I am not pleased with Sunil… this Hope Solo nonsense is seriously annoying me and his Roger Goodell modeled approach is not helping AT ALL..  I have been attempted to write something on that mess for a week now but I keep getting angrier and angrier, so I stop and go back later…The whole thing has tainted my excitement over the Women’s World Cup and the USWNT to a large extent.  It is a super messy disaster and that needs resolution fast.

 

So we will focus on the  good err,  FLIPPPING AWESOME NEWS that Copa America 2016 made it to FIFA’s calender meaning teams must release players and the US can field a full strength squad against the best possible teams in CONMEBOL and a CONCACAF brethren..”

Per the joint statement by CONMENOL AND CONCACAF and, “With the addition of the tournament to the FIFA Calendar, the historic Copa America Centenario in 2016 is now set to be the most important full national team tournament hosted in the Americas since this year’s FIFA World Cup,” said CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb. “We want to thank Fifa, all Confederations and all others involved in the process for their unconditional support in this process making sure that this once in a lifetime celebration was treated with the respect that the players, football fans around the world and participating countries deserve.”
Copa America Centenario Participating Teams:

CONMEBOL
  1. Argentina
  2. Bolivia
  3. Brazil
  4. Chile
  5. Colombia
  6. Ecuador
  7. Paraguay
  8. Peru
  9. Uruguay
  10. Venezuela

CONCACAF

1. U.S.A. (Host)

2. Mexico (Seeded)

3. Costa Rica (2014 UNCAF Copa Centroamericana Champion)

4. TBD (2014 CFU Caribbean Cup Champion)

5. TBD (Winner of 2015 Gold Cup –if not one of the already qualified teams, or 2015 Gold Cup Playoff 1 winner)

6. TBD (2015 Gold Cup Playoff winner)

 

 

Fifty Shades of Soccer… Sex and the Game..

My summer post-World Cup recess is coming to an end and time to get back to work of bringing you the important stories from the female perspective.

One of the things I did on my break was power reading the entire Fifty Shades of Grey series (it took a weekend but it is done).  I deserve a medal for that… [Editorial Rant: Can someone PLEASE get E.L. James a flipping thesaurus.  Girl knows like 15 adjectives and used them insistently and incorrectly A LOT...]

Now why do you care about this? Well because one of the things that kept me hanging on, pardon the bondage pun, is that the only stable male influence in the lead female Ana’s life, is her step-father Ray.   Now Ray is salt of the earth, old school guy…  I should mention the story is set in Seattle in 2011 for the most part.  Part of Ray’s characterization being salt of the earth is his love of sports… Only two are covered the Mariners and the Sounders…  Ray is all kinds of obsessed with soccer, European club and his beloved Sounders.

Sadly for Seattle, comic gold for the rest of us, EL James is not a fan…   Seriously, they lose to Real Salt Lake TWICE in the trilogy which spans about 5 months.  They never win.

MLS, however, does win… The series has sold 100 million+ books globally and been translated into 51 languages.  Nothing MLS marketing has done has had the kind of global reach.  Yes I am including the Beckham thing… they paid a lot of money for that mess, he got the vast majority of the money and the new recognition and not sure it reached the same audience: predominately women and soccer moms at that.

The trailer for the film was released less than two weeks ago and it is already the most viewed of 2014 by a WIDE margin.

MLS needs to jump this bandwagon hard…  Many, many, many women hate this story.. god knows it is a horribly written series but it is also a massive way to get new women into the game.

I always described the game as an introduction to my non-inclined girlfriends the same way, “the prettiest boys on the planet, of every flavor you could possibly desire, run for 90 minutes and then all get shirtless and hug at the end.. what is not to love.”

No, by no means do I think that is all there is to the game or that it is a biggest reason to watch.. It is simply the selling point to get ladies to tune-in.  The beauty of the game will seduce them.  Honestly, I have never seen it fail…

Sex and soccer is not exactly a revolutionary concept I grant you, but MLS has never been given this sort of free marketing opportunity.

One of my favorite bringing ladies to MLS programs was DC United’s “Ladies’ Nights,” which have tickets to a game, cocktails, mani/pedis, shopping and player meet-and-greets.  It was a brilliant way to ease women into the game in a way that does not assume women are inferior.  The most important part of it was that it treated female fans as individual fans, not just taxi moms who drive the kids or accessories on the arm of their partners who are actual fans.

DC United said, “we support our female fans… we want more female fans…we support you being girlie and hardcore too” that needs to happen more.  Tying it to a 100 Million+ book series that has already laid the groundwork is the simplest way to do it.

Also we should ALL support Seattle losing as much as possible..  yes? [before the drama.. I am not suggesting a MLS bondage night thing... simply focusing on a highly under-represented segment of the fanbase]

Also producing appear actually designed for women but…I digress on that point.

Annual Invasion of the Best European Clubs in LA… Man Utd Open Training (with Pics)

Every summer LA is invaded by the, “top,” European clubs in preseason training… It has now expanded well beyond LA too.

Currently Manchester United and Real Madrid are training here and the Rangers (Scotland) were here last week.    Last night Man Utd held an open training at the Rose Bowl, where they play the Galaxy tonight.

Tickets were $20 for general admission or $300 for front row and player access for autographs.  That looked like a disorganized, unmitigated mess.

This was either Louis van Gaal’s first or second training session with the team and lord is he lively.  At one point, he was either giving directions during the scrimmage session or working on his required cheer routine for his varsity try-outs.

Additionally, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney are adorable together.. like toddle buddies at preschool.  Very sad that I missed getting a picture of them walking arms around either’s shoulder.  Also  the team goalies look like quads… all same size, shape, coloring.

You can tell it was early, early pre-season training.. everyone seemed rusty

Here are a few pics and the 250+ more can be found at my flickr page.

Taylor Twellman is Right and Wrong on Concussions (LONG READ)

Trust me, I get where Taylor Twellman is coming from, I totally do… Hell, I have the CT-scans to prove it, but…

First a little history about me… according to the emergency room staff of the Washington Hospital Center, I almost died from a two concussions sustained in a 24 hour period during college.  One night I was hanging out in some friends’ dorm suite lounging against the wall, using one of their pillows, talking.  One of my friend’s wanted her pillow back so she pulled it straight up behind me…  The electrical outlets were not flush with the wall.  When the pillow was removed quickly without me being prepared the base of my skull slammed into the jetted outlet box.  My eyes dilated and I never lost consciousness so it was not really thought of as a big deal.

The next evening, I was back in their room where a bunch of us were watching a movie.  The girl who pulled the pillow was laying on her bed, I was laying on the floor on a red folding chair beds things next to her bed.  She dropped to remote between the wall and her bed which was a traditional steel-framed dorm provided one on rollers.   She pushed her bed away from the wall to retrieve the remote, the side of my head was exactly level with the steel frame.

From what I have been told, the metal frame slammed into the side of my head with force.  I do not remember it or the concussion tests or claiming that I did not want to go to the hospital but, “take me to McDonald. I just want McDonalds.”  I have no memory of it but have reconstructed parts of it from those that were there that night.  Apparently my eyes did not dilate, no idea if I answered the standard concussion questions correctly or if they were even asked.  Cannot tell you how I got to the hospital or got checked in at the ER.

The only thing I vaguely remember is walking up to what I still think is a pedestaled circular nurses’ station in the middle of the ER.  Now, I should note that I have been in that ER a lot and that nurses’ station has never existed there but it is what my mind continues to believe happened. I basically lost all track of time that night.  I have no concept to this day about how long it took to get to the ER, how long I was in the ER or how long I was there when I walked up to the nurses’ station.  I do not even have the slightest idea if anyone was there with me or not.

My memories are very hazy of the conversation with the nurse but I remember asking if she had something I could use to vomit in because I was horribly nauseated (I do not remember feeling anything even nauseated).  I remember saying that I understood it would be a while before I was seen so a bucket would be fine. It was public hospital in DC and they regularly treated gunshot wounds, knifings, and other level 1 trauma so waiting was expected.  Not sure that I was really cognitively able to understand that though and then the nurse asking why I was there..

No idea what I said but my next memory is very fleeting of me flying down the hallway on a gurney.  No idea how I got on the gurney or how long it was from talking to the nurse to being on the gurney.   I do not remember the gurney stopping or route it took or where we ended up.  Next I remember laying on a table (could have been the gurney, no idea) and something about CT-Scans.  I know in retrospect that I had CT-Scans of my head.  Yet, with a barrel of a shotgun to me chest, I would never be able to say definitively I underwent one.

Later I found out the CT-Scan showed two concussions in the two parts of my brain that I hit in those 24 or so hours.  I also found out that being nauseated with a concussion is VERY bad and is often a prelude to imminent death.  Good times… and that is why this is such a huge and under-respected injury.

It seems that I was there for hours and had several concussion exams… few tests have I ever failed miserably as the Glasgow Coma that night.  For the record, I also have no memory of the laying on the gurney, if I did,  for the next several hours or a drop of treatment I received that night.  I do not remember being cleared to go home or going back to my dorm.   I do not know if people watched me overnight (they did).  In short, I remember literally almost nothing about the experience and those memories I do have my not be accurate at all.

Hours of my life which were very dramatic are a complete blank to me.  It is a very odd sensation.  For a period of time after, I had headaches and other symptoms.  I understand what concussions can do to a person.. they can kill or at least really mess with your health and sense of reality.

My point in telling this is so you understand that I respect the work Taylor is doing to bring traumatic brain injury prevention in soccer to the forefront. It is very important work and he understands the costs concussions can have on a life more than most.   I simply disagree about his desired proposals.

That is simply an absurdly wrong approach.  It is a elitist, Bugatti Veyron yet simplistic and highly insufficient solution to a problem that is much more universally Ford Focus in breadth.

It is not that I think head injuries are not serious; of course, I do.  It is that I think this suggestion is absurd in practice.

I get why on the surface he thinks it would be a perfect solution.   He lives/played in a world of elite soccer but this problem spreads across all levels of the soccer pitch.  For example, under this plan where FIFA changes the law and there now must be an independent doctor on the sideline at every match, a few questions initially popped into my head:

    • Who picks the doctor?
    • Using what criteria?
    • Who pays for that doctor’s time?
    • Does the doctor have to be specialists in Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?  Board Certified?
    • What happens if independent doctor’s opinion differs from the team doctor’s opinion?
    • What happens if the doctor is late or called-up on an emergency, does the match just stop?
    • Would they have to be certified as TBI experts by FIFA? Controlling Confederation? The National Association?

These are a few of the basic questions for a proposed solution only covering the elite profession level at best potentially.  This approach is myopic at best.

Yes, I understand that part of this is him trying in vain to save his own career but in spearheading this issue, he needs to be a better leader for ALL those suffering.  That means thinking beyond what would have just saved his career.  He has to think and advocate for what will save other’s careers and lives.

I understand that I am basing this entire debate on a single tweet from Taylor (and hearing many of his televised comments on it).  I assumed there would be a more detailed explanation and/or much more formulated proposals on the website of his highly touted charity Think Taylor.

After searching the website top-to-bottom, I found very little information increasing concussion awareness,  what to do in the event a player sustains what may be a concussion, nothing on his proposals for change including any mention of an independent physician on the sidelines every game, but a lot of opportunities to donate though no information on how the collected funds are spent.   The same is true for its social media pages.  This tweet (and his others) and his televised discussions are all he’s provided.

The reality is concussions are a massive problem at all levels of soccer, especially at least in the US, for girls and women.  The Washington Post had an article last April, entitled, “Reducing the number of concussions in high school girls’ soccer is a daunting task  The lead girl profiled suffered 5 CONFIRMED concussion by the time she graduated high school.  YES FIVE.

This is where the main problem I have with Taylor’s approach is two-fold:

A) Schools, school districts, school conferences, AYSO, et al will never be able to get, let alone pay for an independent physicians trained in diagnosing TBI on the fly to be at every match conducted.  It is simply logically and logistically impossible. You have made it impossible for any group/school/team of players to play any organized matches.  Could it happen at a professional/elite level? maybe.. but even then finding physicians available and willing to work matches is a logistical nightmare.

B)  Secondly it removes responsibility from the coaches and the team’s leadership to take appropriate care of their players.  While watching the Final yesterday,  Chairman and Investor-Operator of the Columbus Crew Anthony Precourt tweeted this at the Kramer concussion incident.

I replied to his tweet with this simple question

Berhalter is of course his head coach, Greg Berhalter and I am still waiting for an answer.  If he, as the team’s owner/chairman of a professional team, does not demand automatic substitution for potential concussion standard of care then he has no place entering the discussion.  If he feels that it was wrong for Low and Kramer, how can it be correct for his own players?   I am very curious as what his position is on the topic when it is his own team’s championship on the line.

During the World Cup, FIFA came under tremendously harsh criticism for multiple players continuing to play in matches after being knocked out.  I honestly think that outrage is horribly misdirected.  Yes, absolutely, FIFA has a major role to solving the issue.  I disagree though that change must come down via edict from them.

The option to have an independent physician is clearly not sustainable from an organizational and financial standpoint for the vast majority of matches played.  This is a problem universe to soccer (and most other sports) at ALL ages, not just the super elite level.   More than that, it is highly insufficient to provide protections to players.

If this plan, or the similar plan requiring mandatory substitutions of players in match, becomes law how quickly does opposing players stop kicking shins or trying to stomp legs to get an advantage and start bashing heads?  This mandatory order simply puts a Vegas worthy neon bullseye on players’ heads.  If you want the opposing team’s best player out of the game, bash his head… It is a much more dangerous way then simply sweeping the leg a la The Karate Kid.  This is one of the unintentional negative consequence of these good-hearted proposals.

Secondarily, removing a team’s leadership and medical professionals in the decision-making, never solves the problem.  The revolution needs to happen in within the club structure first and foremost.   This is is the systemic change needed.

Having an independent physician 0n the sidelines for matches would only offer a player 90 minutes of protection maximum, which is a very small portion of the time players are at risk for head injuries.  Every practice offers many, many chances for a player to sustain a concussion.  What is is it roughly 6 to 1 per week on average, practices to matches? Who protects the players at all those?

If you do not first educate and change each team’s internal mindset, then players will continue to be in danger.  This is also where the FIFA, the Confederations, National Associates, state associations, and those issuing coaching licenses must lead.  Concussion reduction and proper aftercare must be a fully integrated part of the coaching curriculum. It is where they are ALL failing.

According to the US Soccer Federation, a class, “E,” coaching license is the most basic a coach can get.  It is the license class that teaches the youngest/most inexperienced players.   In USSF License E Guidebook, concussions are only covered in a single pre-course assignment (as far as I can tell), not covered at all in a three day course or listed in their “TEAM MANAGEMENT “TOP 10” SAFETY GUIDELINES.   Here is the full course curriculum which is HIGHLY detailed but lacks any focus on player safety an this is where for that course you have to find reference to concussion, not mention if you actually must complete it and there is no formal grading of it.  It does not seem to gain much more coverage the higher up the coaching ladder you move…

This is the crux of the problem…  if coaches are not trained concussion awareness is important, they will not treat it as important.  Changing the way we educate coaches is the ONLY way, change comes.

The proposals, like Taylor’s and others, that attempt to remove team selection from the coach will backfire.  It will but, what it will not do is protect players.   They won’t be protected in training or playing matches after sustaining concussion in training.  If there is an announced automatic policy in place to force players out of matches with TBI, those players heads become primary targets.  I am not saying they should play with head injuries, of course.. simply that giving extra incentive to intentionally cause TBI’S to remove a player is not the answer either.

Educating coaches concussion awareness and proper handling means teaching coaches that concussions and TBI are the same as any other match ending injury.    Placing them on par with other physical injuries elevates them to “reality” in coaches’ eyes.  At present, they are not a big deal now..  think about this…

It must be on the team’s board, owners, directors, presidents, or whatever group/person oversees the coach to demand that team’s medical professionals make those decisions and get coaches are in full agreement.  It is Precourt’s  responsibility, first and foremost, to institute those requirements and procedures in within the structure of the team.  It cannot be imposed from outside. 

Joachim Low didn’t hesitate to sub Sami Khadira for a hamstring injury because to Low that was a, “real,” injury that negatively impacts his team’s performance.  Christoph Kramer’s concussion was not viewed as probably negatively impacting Germany’s chances until it was possibly too late for Kramer.   Low and the like need to be reeducated.

What is worse is all the kids and their coaches watching Kramer, Pereira, Mascherano and the rest of the players who play through concussions, not think it is cool.. or manly… or required.  Low at the opportunity to  do much more than simply win a World Cup, but the chance to save many lives and careers.  He did it only when forced to do it.  That is not good enough… that is where change must occur.

Let’s hope Low didn’t end Kramer’s career …  Kramer is on record as not remembering  much of the World Cup Final.. dude, been there; I feel ya..

 

 ** UPDATED With TAYLOR’S RESPONSE***